Category Archives: Nature

Sights and smells of the great outdoors.

MT Naturalist – Journal Assignment 2

The second journal assignment in the Montana Naturalist class I am taking is a Species Account. The directions are to “find one species that you can readily observe, and document as many details as you can through direct observation.” Since I have chosen Phipps Park, Billings, Montana, as my journaling location, I headed there on May 9, 2023.

It may not look like much when you hike by, but up close the Wax Currant (Ribes cereum) has interesting leaves and little pink flowers.

Here are the first two pages of my journal entry:

I had noticed the leaves on the plant on an earlier hike – the green color is more vivid than the other plants in the area. According to National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Rocky Mountain States the leaves are “toothed” (not ruffled), “grayish,” and have a “musky smell when crushed.” I am guessing the leaves may be more grayish in the summer. I didn’t think to crush and smell a leaf; maybe next time.

Page three of my journaling:

The flowers look like tiny bells to me; the Field Guide says they are tubular – which they are. I imagine learning the common descriptive words when we get to the unit on plants. Once I stood up to take pictures, I realized there were many groups of three or more flowers at the top of the bush.

I really like the star shape made by the petals.

I didn’t notice the darker pink at the end of the petals when taking the picture. I’m wondering if they’re shadowed or actually darker pink. Seems like a hike to the top of Phipps Park is in order – with the hope the wax currant is still flowering.

I will, of course, have to go back in late summer or early fall to check out the berries on the bush.

MT Naturalist – Journal Assignment # 1

For my first journal assignment for the Montana Master Naturalist Course, I hiked to the top of the rimrocks in Phipps Park. Along the way I had to pause to take pictures of the phlox (top left) and a parsley plant of some sort (top right).

The assignment was to create a “Sound and Senses Map” and to begin by sketching a map of your location. The next photo is picture of what I could see once I found a good rock to use as a seat. The trail up the rims can be seen in the lower right center.

The next instruction: Listen for 10 – 15 minutes, “recording sounds around you as you hear them. Find creative ways to show the sounds, using symbols and diagrams along with words and sketches.” I used a simple musical eighth note for every bird sound, the letter “z” for every insect sound, and a badly drawn airplane for airplane sounds.

After listening, we were to document four things we could see, three things we could touch, two things we could smell, and one thing we could taste. Once I’d done the written assignment, I pulled my camera out.

I was – and am – amazed by the colors and textures of the lichen on the rock (below).

To my left was a little fuzzy plant that I still haven’t identified and to my right was a very prickly bush which on a subsequent visit had tiny yellow flowers that suggest it is a skunkbush.

The picture below shows where I was sitting. The tree in the center of the picture is a ponderosa pine and the one on the right is a juniper (not a cedar – I learned it’s often called a cedar but there are no true cedars in this part of Montana).

The next two photos are of the things I could smell: juniper (not cedar) and sagebrush. One of my favorite things about where I live is the smell of sagebrush on a summer morning.

The rest of these pictures were taken on my hike down to the parking lot: ponderosa pine cone, wax currant leaves, juniper berries on branch, prickly pear cactus, and a yucca with last year’s pods still on some stems.

I have been back to Phipps with camera in hand at least three more times in the last few weeks. Spring wildflowers are out and will get a blogpost of their own.

Montana Naturalist

I knew I’d been ignoring my blog – but I didn’t realize the last post was in January! I did take some winter pictures but nothing particularly interesting came of them.

The Montana Audubon Center here in Billings is offering a Montana Master Naturalist course. The stated purpose is “to develop the knowledge, skills, and habits to forge a closer relationship with the natural world.” Deciding it might be fun to meet others and to learn more about the geography, plants and creatures of the area, I signed up.

One of the requirements is to keep a naturalist journal with the recommendation to visit the same outdoor location repeatedly. Since Phipps Park is just up the road from my home, I scoped it out before the class started. All photos in this post were taken that afternoon in mid-April.

CMMC Pick a Topic: Through a Lens

Birdwatching. Shiloh Conservation Area, Billings, Montana. June 21, 2022.

Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge this week is Pick a Topic from her photo (see it here). My first picture picks up a few of Cee’s suggested topics: candid, fence, bird, wild grass, blue, and green.

Cell Phone Camera and Bug in a Web. Norm’s Island, Billings, Montana. August 25, 2022.

The telescope in Cee’s photo, the camera being used by one of the birdwatchers, and the cell phone all have lenses. It may be a stretch, but I picked the topic “through a lens.”

Taking Pictures. Thanksgiving Week 2022, Riverfront Park, Billings, Montana.

These last two candid shots are just for the fun of it!

New Binoculars, Christmas, 2022.

CMMC Color: Amber

Soap in Soapdish. January 11, 2023.

Knowing that amber was Cee’s Midweek Madness January Color Challenge, I’ve been looking for amber colored items for the last week or so. The only thing I found in my house is a bar of soap!

Leaves, Riverfront Park, Billings, Montana. October 18, 2022.

I found a few images in my digital archives I thought might work. When Cee included a color palette in her post (see it here), I decided to include several mores photos.

Cattails, Shiloh Conservation Area, Billings, Montana. October 15, 2022.

The rose is probably not quite amber, but its color is somewhere between yellow and orange so I think it counts.

Roses, Yellowstone Arboretum @ ZooMontana, Billings, Montana. July 9, 2022.

I was surprised by the amber rings of color in the candles when I was trying to get a candle picture for my Christmas cards. Here’s one of the photos I didn’t use.

Candles. December 3, 2022.

CMMC Pick a Topic: Reflections on Water

I knew immediately which picture I wanted to share for this week’s Midweek Madness Challenge when I saw Cee’s challenge photo (see it here)! I’m mesmerized by the reflection in the surface ripples of water – both in Cee’s photo and mine (above).

This next photo is of the same area – just further away and from a different angle.

The last three photos were taken in quick succession a little earlier on the same day in the same place – November 4, 2022 at Riverfront Park, Billings, Montana. I was just starting my walk when a flock of geese flew overhead, circled and landed on the water.

CMMC Color: Tangerine Orange

Cee’s Midweek Madness November Color Challenge is tangerine orange. What I found in my digital files is an eclectic mix: the top of a hot air balloon as it is being inflated, a globemallow flower, an Icelandic poppy, and some of the ingredients for making sundaes and orange (or root beer) floats.